Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three that testify

On Friday night last week, we had quite possibly the best mládež group (the word means "youth", but the demographic translates culturally as "college group") meeting that we've had since I've been here (a whole year). Our topic for the evening was "Assurance of Salvation" and our speaker was Pastor Taska from the congregation in neighboring Oldřichovice. Pr. Taska had chosen for his text 1 John 5:5-12:
"Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life."
Pastor Taska began his talk by assuring us that it isn't arrogance, as some assume, to be sure that we are saved. He gave examples of people he's been to visit who, though being believers, say they aren't sure-- and possibly don't feel that they should be sure (the arrogance thing)-- if they're saved, if they'll go to heaven when they die. He said, rather, that God our Father wants us to be sure. He also said, that because we have faith in Christ, that we have eternal life right now, that we don't have to wait till we die to have eternal life. He told (something like) the following story as an illustration.

There was a little girl who thought her grandmother's vase was very beautiful and asked her grandma if she could please have it, because she liked it so much. The grandmother replied that the little girl could not have it right now, but that it was hers; that when she would be a little older, she could keep it herself. Every time the little girl came to visit Grandma and see the vase, she would ask her grandma if the vase was really her own. The grandma would always reply, "Of course it's yours." The little girl brought a friend of hers one day, pointed to the vase and said, "You see that vase? That's mine!"

We are like the little girl: Eternal life (the vase) IS ours, right now, though it may not look like it. The Lord (like the grandmother) wants us to know that it's ours, and we can ask Him over and over again, the answer is still the same: "It IS yours!" Likewise, we can point to eternal life and tell others: "You see that eternal life? That's mine!"

After this illustration, Pastor Taska posed and answered the question: How do we know that salvation-- eternal life in Christ-- is ours? The answer was verses 7 and 8: "There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree." How do we know that we have salvation? The Holy Spirit, speaking through the Word tells us that we are the children of God. The water of baptism delivers to us our salvation by applying to us the water and the words of baptism in the Name of our Triune God, giving us faith and naming us "Christian"; God claiming us for His own. The blood of Christ, which we receive through the cup in the Lord's Supper, with His body in the bread, truly delivers our Lord to us, and where our Lord Jesus is, there is forgiveness, life and salvation. So, as God comes to us in His gifts of the Word and the sacraments, these things testify that we indeed belong to Christ, and therefore have assurance of salvation.

When Pastor Taska had finished his formal presentation, in the discussion, one of the young people present said that after a long day of ups and downs-- starting the day with the Lord, then going to school and doing other things of "normal life," not thinking about God, and then, trying to end the day again with the Lord, but assaulted by the memories of his various sins throughout the course of the day-- he often wondered if he really was Christ's if he had lived in this faltering way. Someone said that he ought, in those times, to remember the time when he first believed and was saved. Pastor Taska, brilliantly, interjected something so important at that point. He cautioned us not to look to the moment we first believed for the assurance that we are saved, because the moment we believed took place after we had been saved.

He said that he himself had been saved on a Friday afternoon around 3:00, around the year 33 (at this point I was a little confused, because I thought he was referring to 1933-- I was listening to the whole evening without translation-- and Pr. Taska definitely isn't that old). He said that he was saved, and we were too, not when we believed, or "accepted Jesus into our hearts," but when Jesus cried out "It is finished" and died. He told us not to look to our own decisions or lives for assurance of our salvation, but to look to Christ.

When all the discussion about the topic was finished, I broke into spontaneous applause (yeah, it was that good). I couldn't help myself. I had been nodding, smiling, crying, and whispering amens throughout the talk. It was so good because it was ALL JESUS, all the real Gospel for Christ's true people; pure gold! I wanted so much to express my deep appreciation to Pr. Taska, but couldn't fully. Though I listened without translation (and honestly understood probably 90% of the words, not just 90% of the thoughts, but words!), I certainly am not capable of expressing myself adequately-- yet-- in Czech.

May we all remember that we can know we're saved because of the testimony of the three which agree: the Spirit and the water and the blood. Let us not give up remembering this and seeking Christ in these three, where He delivers Himself and His salvation to even sinners like us!

Please pray for Pavla, that she would read through John and send me her questions, as she promised. Though she's gone to youth group for a long time, she has never believed, and says that it's impossible to believe, and yet is willing to hear about Jesus and to read the Word herself. May the Holy Spirit give her faith through the life-giving Word!


elise said...

Oh ash! Not only does that sound like a beautiful youth group, and some concepts that i may borrow for teaching my bible basics class this summer (you'd be so proud!).

but you understood 90% of the words!!! that is so fantastic. praise God!

MsPribnow said...

Did she end up sending you her questions, Ashley???

MsPribnow said...

PS I don't know why my username shows up as Ms. Pribnow?!?!?! Must have something to do with the blog I created for my students to use over the summer. Ha ha!

AshleyEffken said...

No, unfortunately Pavla didn't send me her questions... I hope I am able to maintain my contact with her over the summer and keep talking to her about Christ.